Whole truth on whole grains

Whole grain bread is just one way to get your grains. Pexels

Do you want to feel more full and satisfied when you eat? Who doesn’t? Isn’t that part of the joy of eating? A recent study outlined in Food & Nutrition Magazine (Vol. 10, Issue 4) indicated that people who ate more whole grains had less hunger and desire to eat, plus higher fullness and satiety compared to people who ate more refined grains. So, what does this mean? Let’s start with figuring out what foods fall in the grain category.

Grain-based foods are any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain. Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits and tortillas are examples of grain products. Foods such as popcorn, rice and oatmeal (my favorite food!) are also grains.

Grains are further categorized into whole grains and refined grains. Foods made with whole grains contain the entire grain kernel — the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples are whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, popcorn, and brown rice. Refined grains have been processed to remove the bran and germ. This gives grains a finer texture and improves their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grains are white flour, corn grits, white bread and white rice.

The message you might hear most often when it comes to grains is to make at least half the grains you eat whole grains. The total amount of grains you need to eat depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. For women, the amount can also depend on whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Most Americans eat enough total grain foods, but few eat enough whole grains.

Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides health benefits, including:

n Reducing the risk of heart disease

n Healthy digestion

n Weight management

The ingredient list on the product label is an important tool in figuring out if grains are whole grains. The following indicates whole grains: whole grain (name of grain), whole wheat, whole (other grain), stoneground whole (grain), brown rice, oats, oatmeal (including old-fashioned oatmeal, instant oatmeal), wheatberries. It can be confusing. Although these words (enriched flour, wheat flour, de-germinated (on corn meal), bran, wheat germ) seem like they would be whole grains, they are not. To further confuse the issue, the marketing on the package may say things like “contains whole grains” or “high in fiber.” The bottom line, read the ingredients on the nutrition facts label and look for the whole grain words indicated in this article.

Contact Amanda Root at Cornell Cooperative Extension of JeffersonCounty, 315-788-8450 or email arr27@cornell.edu.

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